The Gentlemen of West London are our longest-standing opponents, our friendly fixtures with them going right back to 2002. They’re great guys and our games with them are always played in a good spirit – but they are a strong side, and it takes something extra special from the Allstars to beat them. The first time was in our opening fixture of 2005, thanks to one of the greatest ever Allstars innings, from Simon “Scratch” Begley. James Terrett tells the story…
Sunday 24 April 2005, Victoria Recreation Ground, Surbiton. St Anne’s Allstars 153-8 (35 overs; Simon Begley 89*) beat Gentlemen of West London 114 all out (James Devlin 4-13, Nick Chadwick 3-7) by 39 runs.
Ever since the Allstars were founded, we have always lost to the Gentlemen of West London. It has been a constant source of frustration, as we feel we can certainly compete, but in the past we have capitulated and handed them victory on a plate, served with humiliation pie and embarrassment gravy. It was with a feeling of dread therefore, that Maxie and Andy Burman (his Gents counterpart) had decided to celebrate this fixture with a cup, known as the 42-11 Trophy (our total with 12 players against the Gents last year). The last thing I wanted to do was to embarrass ourselves once more on the cricket field and then applaud the Gents team as they collected the trophy for the 17th time in succession. My feelings were unfounded, as we finally put in a strong performance that brought the first silverware in our history home to Allstars HQ.
The game started as normal. We elected to bat and the pitch assisted the bowlers extremely well. Tristan was bowled by one that kept very low and Maxie decided we had lost. Adam Clements played well before being caught at deep-ish square leg to leave us 10 for 2. Felix was then bowled some overs later to leave us 19 for 3, and thoughts of a sub-50 total were on the cards.
There then followed a magnificent innings by Scratch, taking us to 55 for 4 before being joined by Paul Nicol. These two dominated the bowling and took us into the hundreds before Paul was very well caught on the long-on boundary for 28.
We then faltered, with the other batsmen falling quickly, but no-one had forgotten Scratch at the other end. In the last 10 overs he really cut loose, his unbeaten 89 guiding us to an eventual 35-over total of 153 for 8, ably assisted by Devers putting together a vital 9th wicket partnership and with it a very strong target.
It was difficult to pick out a highlight in the innings. Some people felt it was Scratch’s straight six back over the bowler’s, head but I feel it was the 28-run partnership between him and me from which my running of three wides simply took the spectators’ breath away. My eleven ball duck will certainly bring the crowds back to cricket.
After a very satisfying tea, we took to the field knowing we were in the driving seat. Tight bowling from Tristan meant the Gents, in just the first over of the innings, took on a suicidal second run to the athletic fielding of Chadders. The Hove-based demon bowler dived to half-stop a certain boundary before firing in to Tristan to whip the bails off. Devers followed up with a sinister line, encouraging the pitch to offer something to his controlled deliveries. One kept a little low to dismiss Justin Northcott and then a copycat delivery to James Lewis an over later ensured the Gents were in trouble at 15 for 3.
Paul Nicol also bowled one which wouldn’t have looked out of place at a crown green bowling tournament and Chadders bowled an excellent delivery to have the number five batsman caught behind. All this time the Gents danger man Kiwi Wayne played some aggressive shots and kept the scoreboard moving but he too succumbed to the tight bowling from Paul Nicol, ensuring we effectively had the Gents in a half-nelson with the crowd baying for blood.
The next partnership between Mark “Scibbo” Sciberras and “HP” Denton was a dangerous one. Both batsman played themselves in before being bowled some waist-high full tosses which were smashed to the boundary on a regular basis. Difficult and unpredictable bounces also cost us byes and missed run-outs and mis-fields started to creep into our game. Suddenly we’d taken our foot off the Gents’ throat, and they’d moved on from 45 for 6 to 100 for 6.
With Kieran Toohey bowling well from the pavilion end, Maxie turned to Scratch to mix things up and his leg-spin had the desired effect. Falling to a wide, short, looping ball that offered no turn, Scibbo launched the delivery high to deep extra cover. Adam, fielding at long off, set-off like a greyhound and took a superb running catch to rid the Allstars of the big hitting Scibbo. Cue a massive collective sigh of relief.
Once Scibbo was gone it was all about taking our chances. With the run-rate creeping higher, the Gents had to throw caution to the wind and after surviving some close run-out attempts, we made the breakthrough with Paul Nicol combining with Chris behind the stumps to run-out the number 7 batsman and we were into the tail-enders. Chadders returned, having Tony Buck caught by Clem in the gully, before “One Dart” Devers also returned to mop up the tail, clean bowling both to finish with four wickets.
The elusive win and the new trophy were ours. In the pub afterwards it was widely accepted that Clem’s catch was the highlight of the fielding performance, although I’m pretty sure they overlooked the way I backed up some of the long throws and my excellent throwing of the ball back to the bowler had the press box exchanging appreciative nods.
Man of the match plaudits go to Simon Begley for his heroic, imperious, 89*, and who batted unbeaten through 35 overs – including our amazing partnership. Played 1 won 1 – I sense an Arsenal season.